Sunday, September 18, 2011

Review: Bangkok Kung Fu

  • Directed by Yuthlert Sippapak
  • Starring Arak Amornsupasiri, Athigit Pringprom, Wisawa Taiyanonnt, Kaew Sirimongkonsakol, Mario Maurer
  • Released in Thai cinemas on September 1, 2011; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 2/5

Despite its title, Bangkok Kung Fu (บางกอกกังฟู) isn't a martial-arts film. Instead, it's a rather dull teenage romantic melodrama.

Director Yuthlert Sippapak throws in a few entertaining twists, but the purpose of the movie is to showcase the teen-idol singers from Kamikaze, the record label of music company RS Public, parent of studio Film R Us. They aren't stunt players, so they just stand there and make kung-fu poses while CGI waves of energy emanate from their hands, like they are The Last Airbender.

The story starts off pretty gritty, though, and echoes Slumdog Millionaire, with four boys forced by ruthless gangsters to work as beggars in Bangkok's Chinatown. When they misbehave, the four are each given different disabilities. One is slapped upside the head so hard his brain is damaged. Another's ears are boxed so severely, he's made deaf. One boy has his tongue cut off with pruning shears. And the fourth has his eyes gouged out with bamboo skewers.

They are rescued from further harm by an elderly kung-fu master, and taken in and raised by him along with a fifth kid, a little girl.

Flash-forward to years later, and the kids are all grown up but have split apart over that girl.

The speech-impaired guy ("Pe" Arak Armornsupasiri) is working as a freelance assassin, and he's given the coolest move in the movie, when he throws a chopstick and impales it into a foreigner's forehead.

The deaf guy ("Tomo" Wisawa Taiyanonnt from K-Otic) and his blind blood brother (Athigit "Bank Black Vanilla" Pringprom) are on a fruitless search for vengeance against the gangsters who harmed them.

The brain-damaged boy (Mario Maurer) is still living with the master, and despite his mental deficencies – he doesn't go full retard, but almost – is still hoping the old man will teach him kung fu.

And the girl (Faye Fan Kaew singer Kaew Sirimongkonsakol), who has the cool skill of levitation, has no interest in martial arts. She's instead entering music contests and auditioning to be a rap singer, even though hip-hop is clearly not her style.

The story becomes quite complicated, but it involves a few lame fights, that quest for vengeance, a search for a healing elixir known as "dragon's tears" and the heartthrob characters sitting around, playing with marbles and brooding.

Eventually, some somersaulting monkey-mask-clad martial artists turn up to make things somewhat exciting again. They are doing the bidding of a white dude with a scary ponytail, who wants to eat the hearts of the brain-damaged kid and the girl and gain their powers.

I would have offered my heart if it would have made the movie end a bit quicker.

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